Saturn… It has a ring to it

Saturn 1

As a child, I was fascinated by the solar system. Maybe I got into it because of my older space-crazy brother. (He also introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Queen, AC/DC, etc., but that’s another story.) I even wrote to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and they kindly mailed me glossy 8 x 10″ index cards about space, the planets and the famous rockets.

Saturn was my favorite. I developed a fascination with it because of its rings — such a feminine, bejeweled touch — and liked that Serena, Samantha Stevens’ lookalike brunette bad girl cousin in Bewitched, sometimes hung out there.

When I was 12, my space-crazy brother took me to the Griffith Park Observatory in L.A. and I finally got to see it through the giant telescope. I was so excited.

I like to think of it as my home planet.

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I had a moment at the market

Spring-onions

Image courtesy of www.foodlily.com.

She’s made mistake after mistake with the two customers before me, testing everyone’s patience as the line behind me keeps growing. And growing. Like Jack and the Beanstalk minus the golden egg on top. When (if?) my turn comes,  will be my golden egg. Her manager comes to her rescue and it’s finally my turn.

Alright, this young cashier at Monoprix started her job only a week ago. Let’s flash her a smile and give her a chance. She’s so slow that s snail would win a marathon against her. But it’s alright. She’s learning. She’s even learning the names of vegetables.

“Excuse me, what are those? What are they called?” she asks me pointing to the mysterious bunch of green and white things (see photo).

“Spring onions,” I reply, taken aback.

It’s her turn to act surprised, staring at me wide-eyed. I reassure her that these are, indeed, onions.

(This all may sound like something out of The Onion, but it’s real.)

She asks a colleague whether she’s supposed to weigh them. The woman tells her no, that they’re sold by bunch, and a bunch counts as a piece.

Misunderstanding, she starts counting the pieces in the bunch. I attempt to tell her it’s sold as a bunch, that it can in no way cost 9 euros. She insists that that’s the price because they’re sold by piece and a bunch is composed of pieces. “And I punched in the code.”

‘K, my impatience is catching up with me. “Yes, but the code is for the bunch!” I say with a fake smile but a look in my eyes that could kill. Her colleague and manager intervene and finally teach her what a bunch is.

Order is restored.

At least she learned stuff today thanks to me and the other unsuspecting customers who have better things to do on a Saturday morning than waste their time at a supermarket checkout.

Hopefully she will retain all this new, onion-y information because I really have better things to do than discuss the difference between a piece and a bunch.

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Let Me Eat Cake!

Galette-des-rois-Jean-Cocteau-de-Lenotre

“Let them eat cake!” said the Three Kings, thus marking a tradition of the French finding yet another excuse to eat yummy pastries.

The Epiphany, which takes place on January 6, celebrates the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. On this day the wise trio, commonly known as the Three Wise Men, arrived from the East, guided by the Star of Bethlehem, bearing gifts for the divine infant.

Fast forward two millenniums.  In the days leading up to and after the Epiphany, the French celebrate by eating the Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake), made of frangipane, an almost-flavored filling. A tiny lucky charm, or fève, is hidden inside the cake and the one who finds it is declared — ta-DAAAAA! — king or queen and wears a golden (cardboard) crown.

Savvy modern marketing practices (or competition) have now led bakeries to sell them as early as late November, and famous chefs all over the country create their own concoctions and flavors, often using fruit, lavender, rose or chocolate.

The most creative one this year has to be Lenôtre’s Jean Cocteau galette, created by chef Guy Krenzer as a homage to the writer and artist. Inspired by the Mediterranean and made from lemon zest, Limoncello from Menton, Genoa almond bread flavored with lime and caramelised pineapple, it is shaped like a star and, of course, the lucky charm is a collectible item bearing a Cocteau sketch. (Skip the calories and order all five feves online!)

As an Orthodox, January 6 is also my Christmas, although we actually celebrate on the 25th for obvious practical reasons. But will I get presents again? No? OK, Let me cake then.

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It’s been Black Friday all week

thanks-merciAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, France has the largest expat community in the world, so it is logical that Thanksgiving is marketed, whether at some French markets or American and international grocery stores. But I noticed last year Black Friday sales being advertised all over… Paris. While the French shun everything that is American (all the while wearing the latest Nike kicks and sipping their Starbucks latte), they do have an eye for a good marketing scheme. And this whole week has been Black Friday.

And so it’s that time of year again, just a month before that other time of the year. Again. On Thanksgiving, Americans are supposed to be thankful for all that we have, including a land ripped away from the Native Indians — they’ll be thankful when they get their land back. In the meantime, we should be thankful for all we have now. Live the moment and be grateful for that, too. And not just that moment on Thursday afternoon when you pass the gravy around the table and make polite chit chat with tolerate relatives you see once or twice a year, when you’re thankful on this one day but an ingrate the rest of the year, before succumbing to the charms and wiles of consumerism the following Black Friday morning to buy stuff you don’t need with money you most likely don’t have except virtually in the form of a plastic card that will charge you interest each month. So ultimately you end up paying the full retail price.

Hordes of consumers sheep are getting ready to run through the pearly gates of their favorite store to find that one item that will change their life at half price. Oh giant flat-screen TV, here we come! I can forgive you if you’re going Christmas shopping, but I doubt most people are.

Just be grateful for all that you have — and I’m not talking about material things. There’s always someone who’s worse off than you. Give thanks every day, not just one Thursday once a year. And you don’t have to eat turkey to do that. You can eat chocolate instead

Excusez-moi, I need to go make my list for Santa.

xoxo

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Around the World Market in 80 Seconds

Browsing some stores is like going on a treasure hunt. I can spend over an hour at World Market, rummaging carefully through each aisle — from cute notebooks and home decorations to imported foods and drinks, some très atypical such as chocolate teemed with unusual flavors or chocolate- or coffee-flavored wine. I feel like an explorer.

So allow me to take you on a quick pictorial visit at one of their locations in Los Angeles…

Abide and wash it all down with some Dude ale.

World Market-Dude beerOr Hello Kitty soda pop from Japan…

World Market-sodaYou prefer a caffeine boost? Grab a can of cappuccino.

World Market-coffeeAnd if you have the munchies, there are plenty of snacks.

Some flavored chocolate perhaps?

World Market-Tabasco chocoWorld Market-chipotleToo disgusting? How about washing it down with a glass of Game of Thrones Fire and Blood Red Ale?

World Market-Game of ThronesOr Ed Hardy sangria (because Christian Audigier is desperately trying to recycle himself)

World Market-Ed Hardy

I personally would like to try the Hemingway tea. It’s “infused with the author’s spirit and passion for life.” And talent?World Market tea

 

 

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Set your alarm to Sixx: A.M.

SIXXAM-36-Nikki

Five years after interviewing Nikki Sixx at his studio in Calabasas, near Los Angeles, I was invited to see Sixx: A.M. in their first live performance since 2009 and their only show of 2014. Best of all, it was an intimate shindig for iHeart Radio Live (no relation to Apple products… sorry, couldn’t resist) in Burbank just for fans, music industry people and media to promote the release of their third album, Modern Vintage. A title that could also be used to describe the sartorial style of the evening.

Inside the small venue with the AC on full blast, there is a pre-show going on. While the fashion sense at Hellfest is pretty straightforward metal, here it is much more stylized, often to perfection. Think more Vogue than street style. As in “not a strand of hair out of place” perfect. While Sixx: A.M. may not play glam rock, their audience is certainly glamourous, reinventing the sartorial codes of rock ’n’ roll. And they think high. As in sky-high some heels and shorter-than-necessary skirts that they cannot necessarily carry off. Black and denim are the dominant pieces. Raven hair with burgundy highlights for girls, with matching red, collagen lips, long locks for boys. Think Bettie Page gone metal. Or perhaps what would have been the offspring of Dita Von Teese and ex-hubby Marilyn Manson. It’s a cross between a catwalk and an art exhibit; there are enough tattoos to fill a gallery where wannabe, will-never-be and aging Mötley Crüe fans mingle. Angelenos have the style down to a tee. And some even literally… as in T-shirt, that is.

Rock ’n’ roll T-shirts will never die: Kiss, Fender, Iron Maiden, Slayer – you know, the usual. Axl Rose bandanas are still actually a thing, too, version 2014. I call fans who emulate their favorite rockers’ style “lookabees”. The tall Iggy Pop lookabee is sporting a Bad Boy tank and hat. He’s even got the pout.  Another popular look is Jack White. Strangely, no one has the courage — or enough gel and hairspray — to attempt the Nikki Sixx look. No Eighties hair in this venue. Heck no, it’s 2014. Nylon is the new Creem.

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On the dot at 7pm — this is live radio, after all — iHeartRadio’s DJ Tray Morgan introduces the band and teases a “special announcement to make shortly before the end of the show.” Which is in 15 minutes. And which I can guess. (No, the other guys from Mötley Crüe won’t be here for an impromptu set.)

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Sixx: A.M. kicks off with the live premiere of “Let’s Go”, warming up the audience: “Let’s go to the edge,” chants lead singer James Michael. They follow with new track “Stars”, after which Mr. iHeart DJ joins the band onstage for a short Q&A. While the first two Sixx: A.M. albums had Nikki’s books as templates – The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack (2007) and This Is Gonna Hurt (2011) — Modern Vintage is the band’s first album which was inspired by… music. “We really discovered who’d we become as a band. We went through old Sixties records,” says James Michael, adding that they went through their own record collections, filled with artists like Queen and Wings. They were basically researching the art of songwriting. “Songs were king at the time and albums were not linear,” says Nikki Sixx, and DJ Ashba explains it best: “This is more of a celebration record. This was a wide open canvas and, God, did we paint.”

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After they perform another new track, “Gotta Get It Right”, the obvious surprise news is finally announced: Sixx: A.M. will go on a headlining tour for three weeks next April with Apocalyptica – “We just love that band.”. “You guys have only seen half of our dream,” DJ Ashba says.

While I’m pondering what the other half of that dream could be, cue the grand piano. James Michael beings a solo rendition of The Cars’ “Drive”, before he’s joined by the band and the saturated guitar kicks in. Not an easy track to cover as the original is perfection, but Ric Ocasek would approve. The crowd goes wild on the next song. “This is called ‘Life is Beautiful’,” screams James and the vitamin-infused hit gets everyone bouncing — enough to make sure not a strand of hair gets out of place. I’m standing next to a crazed male fan who, between songs, yells out his setlist suggestions. And he seems happy with the next tune, the somber “Before It’s Over,” which the band plays live for the first time, dedicated to someone dear to James Michael, sitting once again at the piano. “I lost a dear, dear friend and my manager of 16 years on Sunday and I wanna sing a song for him.” The rest of the band joins him mid-song with a lengthy guitar solo by DJ Ashba.

That was heartfelt and touching, but please let’s get going again, guys. “We’re gonna do a song from our second record, a record called This is Gonna Hurt.” The title track is a monster sound, crushing under its potency, creating a fracas with each riff. The set finishes with “Rise of the Beautiful People,” the perfect tune for the L.A. crowd and a resurrection for Sixx: A.M. It’s 8pm and time to go home.

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How to be a hot girl in L.A.

Farmers-sauce shopJim Morrison’s famous lyrics take on a whole new meaning at the hottest store in L.A., aptly called Light My Fire. The hot sauce specialty boutique, located in the heart of the Farmer’s Market, sells all sorts of tongue-burning concoctions, like BBQ sauces, salsas and snacks.

Forget mild and hot. The pungency here runs from an extremely spicy Heat 4 to a hotter-than-hell Heat Ten Plus Plus, the ultimate hottie being The Source, which clocks in 1.5 million Scoville units. Ouch. It should come with a tube of Preparation H… or a hot firefighter.

But the best part are the names. They must have had so much fun brainstorming. I wish I could list them all. Instead, I sneaked in a few quick pics (there is a “no photos” policy) of some of the funniest ones.

If you’re a masochist brave hot mama, you can order them online at www.hotsaucetogo.com. Come on baby, light your fire.

 

 

 

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Pink and purple flotilla

pink-boat4Last month, prior to attending the Guardians of the Galaxy screening at Disney’s headquarters in Paris, we took a stroll from République, passing through the Marais and Rue Beautreillis, where Jim Morrison lived at number 17, then made our way along the quay of the Seine on the Left Bank. A whole other Paris.

A lot of boats are anchored along the river – some private, but mostly floating restaurants and even a swimming pool. The bars on the quay had a beach-side feel making full use of the wide open space, ideal to lay down on the colorful deckchairs and soak in the sunshine and the tranquility despite being in the middle of the city.

It was mid-summer so not many locals were around, but these floating establishments, as well as the bars, tend to cater to a hip crowd.

boat-kingkong

 

King Kong guarded one of the boats, a large vessel that looked like something out of a film involving an Eastern Bloc nation. But my favorite was the pink and purple boat. Its owner was watering the plants at the makeshift garden located on its bow and I snapped a few pictures of her fashionable flotilla. Isn’t it pretty?

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Liberté, Egalité, Stylisée

KureBazaar-tricolor

Should I paint my nails Mon bleu, Milk or Stiletto?

Bastille Day – or Fête Nationale, as they say here – commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison-fortress on July 14, 1789. It became a symbol of the uprising of a new nation, of the modern-day French Republic. It was a period of radical and social upheaval seeking to overthrow a society based on feudalism. The absolute monarchy that had reigned for centuries collapsed. The privileges of the monarchs, aristocrats and the Catholic Church evaporated and the principle of liberté, égalité, fraternité – liberty, equality, fraternity – was adopted. It is perhaps the most famous revolution in history and, of course, much more complicated than this. Living in Paris, I feel steeped in its rich history – I see it all around me. And its fashion.

If there’s one thing the French are good at – that is, besides food, wine, cheese, bread, chocolate, literature, art or architecture (that’s already quite an impressive list, non?) – it’s fashion. French couture revolutionized fashion and Parisians, style. They’re really good at that revolution thing, n’est-ce pas?

There’s a commotion in Paris every few months called Paris Fashion Week and every catwalk seems to bring forth some new mini revolution each season. We connect Paris style with haute couture like Chanel, Dior or Givenchy, among many other notable couture houses, and the words chic and elegant are liberally used when describing Parisian style.

Then there’s that stereotype. Bien sûr it is not true that French men grow mustaches, wear berets and carry a baguette under their arms. It’s a fun cliché, though, that even the French like to make fun of. You’ll even come across that Frenchman in cartoon form on many t-shirts and touristic items.

But how does the average Parisian dress in every day life? Not so different from you.

There seems to be a misconception that Parisians walk around in couture dresses and Louboutin heels during the day, as often depicted in films and TV shows. My girlfriends and I laughed at the Gossip Girls episodes that were shot in Paris in 2010. Seriously, no one dresses like they’re going to a cocktail party during the day.

Fair enough, the show is largely known for its incredible fashion so it’s natural that the wardrobe department would cater to people’s perception of Parisian street style rather than the reality of its, well, normality. Yes, Parisians dress pretty much like everyone else, they just know how to style it better and carry themselves with a different type of confidence, a certain je ne sais quoi.

So what do you wear when you’re visiting Paris? Or rather, what not to wear?

One thing that didn’t change from the decadent days of Marie-Antoinette is fashion. Bien sûr, Paris will always remain the fashion capital of the world. And I wish some tourists would take that into consideration when packing and make an effort.

I’ll be honest: there is a certain category of tourists who look as if they’re going hiking or, worse, beachcombing. Some look like they just got out of bed and slid some shoes or flip-flops on and bolted out the door. I understand it’s a city where there’s a lot of sightseeing to be done and a lot of walking involved, not to mention that you’re on holiday, but please – you’re not at the beach or in your backyard. So don’t stand out in something you would only wear at the seaside or in the privacy of your own home. I am by no means suggesting that you should get all dressed up, just don’t cater to the French stereotype of the typical North American tourist. You can look casual and chic with a t-shirt and shorts on – and stay comfortable – it’s merely a matter of the cut, shape and especially how you choose to wear them. A little effort goes a long way and, like it or or not, you’re sort of representing your country. And this is by no means about being superficial, but let’s face it – outer appearances do count. It’s the first impression people have of you. Superficiality isn’t a matter of clothing, by the way, but of personality.

t-shirt-Louis

Team Louis XVI? A fun tee I spotted in Paris.

Men are not exempt from those rules, and French guys know it.

My friends in the States often ask me if French guys are really the sexiest. Well, I reply, that’s a matter of personal taste and preference and I don’t believe that nationality determines one’s powers of seduction. What I do know is that they sure like to look good.

French men certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to personal style. They are effortlessly debonair and their looks, timeless. They tend to favor classic pieces with a modern take. They even manage to look dressy in jeans! The key is the cut. European cuts are much more flattering.

The stylistic trend of the metrosexual is quite normal in Paris. Even their take on the hipster look is chic – and Paris is full of hipsters.

So guys, dress it up a notch. It’s a sign of respect for your host country and bear in mind that a lot of monuments and churches do not allow you in if you’re dressed inappropriately.

Here’s what to pack:

  • Casual button-down shirts and good-quality tees – perfect for day or evening.
  • Light-weight pants – they’re more comfortable and cooler than jeans in hot weather and look both casual and stylish.
  • Keep the flip-flops for the beach and sneakers for the gym – invest in good-quality walking shoes to survive long distances and withstand the shock of cobblestones.
  • A fedora hat – I know, it screams hipster, but it looks much nicer than a baseball hat. Or choose a cap.

The female suitcase is usually overpacked to the point of bursting (every piece has a reason for being in that suitcase, even if we never wear it) and you’ve arrived in Paris and finally unpacked. Now, what to wear on Bastille Day? Think tricolore like the national flag and work around that.

JPG-robe-sirene-mariniere

Jean Paul Gaultier redefines his famous marinière as a mermaid dress

The essentials:

  • Skinny jeans or a black or red pencil skirt.
  • Jean Paul Gaultier’s ubiquitous marinière with its sailor stripes is a staple for French women. They come in the form of tanks or tees, loose-fitting or body-con, and can be both casual or formal depending on how you choose to wear it and what you pair it with.
  • Repetto ballerina flats in black, red or electric blue or red espadrille wedges for more elevation! In 2011, one of my favorite shoe brands, Noe, designed a limited edition tricolor pump for Bastille Day!
  • A little chic red handbag. I love my little Lancel bag. Or go for a clutch in red, white or blue!
  • Red lip stain or lipstick. Dior makes the best lipsticks and glosses. Its Addict line is addictive!
  • Red, white or blue nails? Take your pick from Kure Bazaar, my favourite nail polish brand as it is completely “4 free” – no synethetic camphor, toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phtalate – and 85% of its ingredients are natural.
  • This season’s cat eyes sunglasses to complete the French kitty look. Meow!
  • Oh, and before you walk out the door, put on some perfume, just a touch. Since it’s summer, opt for perfumes made especially for the season. Your regular perfume may provoke a reaction when exposed to sunlight and cause skin discoloration as fragrances tend to intensify in the heat. Summer fragrances generally have a lighter citrus or floral scent. I love O de Lancôme and Youth-Dew by Estée Lauder.

And don’t forget to indulge in a snack on Bastille Day. Try Fauchon’s tricolor éclair.

Fauchon eclair

Voilà, you’re pumped up with energy and ready to roam the city like a true parisienne or watch the fireworks exploding above the Tour Eiffel. Quite a view to a kill!

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Fauchon boldly goes where no fruit has gone before

Fauchon-Candice Milon PATISSERIE-

A long time ago (the other night), in a fruity galaxy far, far away (near Madeleine church), I visited the planet Fauchon and its constellation of edible Technicolor heavenly bodies… This wasn’t science fiction, but Fruit Fiction.

This summer, the celebrated French brand has concocted an entire galaxy of tutti frutti delights, 100% natural and 300% delicious, available until September 3. And I was invited to taste these unique galactic concoctions.

fruit-champagne

But first, champagne by Lanson. It is suggested that I choose an ingredient to add to my glass to give flavour to this particular bubble. A plate of raspberries, fresh mint and lemon zest are the ideal partners for this cru. Being a very berry girl, I pick a framboise.

At another table nearby, a colourful constellation of fruits are waiting to take my palate to far-off gourmand worlds they’ve never traveled to before.

fruit-chefs

The chefs aligning the fruity stars for me to taste

As I sip my fruity champagne, the chef-pâtissier guides me through the different flavours, some unexpected, as I relish a bit of each pastry.

We start off with the fruit constellations. At first sight, the ringed apricot, peach and cherry resemble real fruit, but they are actually made of biscuit, sponge cake and bavaroise mousse. Little pieces of edible art. But what really piques my interest are the rings, like Saturn, my favourite planet. Crunchy little rings made of white or dark chocolate.

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He then hands me a piece of the small square melon and redcurrant pie, its cream interior made with honey lavender, honeydew melon, vervain and pansies. My taste buds being to orbit out of this world.It is light and airy and melts in my mouth leaving a discreet lavender taste. This is really the best tarte I have ever tasted.

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The éclairs contain the most intense — and surprising — flavours of all. Their red icing conjures up very berry flavours, but they are paired with unexpected partners. The first éclair cream interior is made of raspberries and avocado. Yet it is subtle on the palate, slightly acidulated. It is covered in a raspberry icing and a Saturn ring made of white chocolate. The second éclair contains perhaps the most intense flavour of all, a surprising case of opposites attract. The creamy strawberry interior is mixed with red bell-pepper confits. It is sweet and fruity, a match made in gourmand heaven.

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There are also salty items on this cosmic menu. I like the vegetable garden that resembles a flying saucer. Planted on a lemon mascarpone cream is a vegetable and fruit garden of red endives, cherry tomatoes, turnip, radish, Granny Smith green apple and mango. Perfect for a quick bite. Finish off with a mango-salmon or crab-apple éclair. Or on a hot day, opt for the cold soup made of green tomato, green bean and mint.

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FAUCHON3_0074Head over to Fauchon for more options from this fruity big bang collection: 26-30, place de la Madeleine, Paris 8e.

Merci beaucoup to Fauchon and Do It In Paris for the yummy invitation. 

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